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DIVINE MERCY

Excerpts from the Book,
GOD’S MERCY IN HIS WORKS,
written by Dr. Fr. Michael Sopocko

Men’s thoughts of God are vague and ill-defined, for "no man hath seen God at any time" (John I: 18).
(...) If we had never seen the sun, and had formed our only idea of it from such light
as there is on a dull day, we should never have a true picture of the source of daylight.
Or, if we had never seen white light, but knew light only through the seven colors of
the rainbow, we should never know what whiteness was. In the same way, we cannot form an adequate concept of the Being of God: the most we can do is to see something of His perfections, revealed to us as they are, in created things, in a state of multiplicity and diffusion, whereas in God they exist in absolute unity. God, as the most perfect Being, is a pure and simple Spirit, made up of no parts.

(...) It is impossible to sound the depths of all the perfections found in the Being of God: they are many, and far surpass our knowledge. (...) Among all these perfections Our Lord singles out one as the fountainhead from which flows all that comes to us in life, and in which God desires to be praised for all eternity. This perfection is the Mercy of God. "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6 : 36).

The Mercy of God is the perfection of His activity, stooping over all beings that lie beneath Him, to raise them from their misery and to supply what they lack: it is His Will of doing good to all in need, who cannot themselves meet those needs. A single act of mercy is pity, but the unchanging state of pity is mercy. (...) God’s relation to created things is shown in His supplying their needs and distributing among them greater and lesser perfections. This bestowal of perfections, considered in itself, quite irrespective of circumstance, is an act of God’s goodness, which gives to each as He wills.

What we see of the total disinterestedness of God in thus scattering His gifts, we attribute to His liberality. The watchful care of God that, with the help of all the good things He has given us, we should reach our goal, we call His providence. The bestowal of perfections, in accordance with a prearranged plan and order, is a work of justice. And finally, the bestowal of perfections on His creatures to save them from their wretchedness and to supply their wants, is the work of Mercy.

A creature’s lack is not always its misfortune, for to each belongs only that which God has ordained and decreed for it. It is no misfortune for a sheep, for instance, to have no reason; nor is it a disaster for a man to have no wings. But the lack of reason in man, or wings in a bird, would be a terrible misfortune. Whatever God does for created things, He does in accordance with a carefully devised and established order, determined by divine justice. But as this order was freely assumed and was not imposed upon God by anyone, the fact that one order and not another was established shows us unmistakably that it is the work also of Mercy.

So, when we come to penetrate the first causes, the motives, of God’s activity, we see Mercy as the mainspring of every outward act. For if anything is due to a creature, it is only on the grounds of some previous decision. But as we cannot retreat like this into infinity, we must pause here, at what depends solely on the will of God, or the Mercy
of God. In each act of God, we can see, according to how we look at it, the perfections
of God mentioned above.

The preservation of Moses, for instance, hidden in his basket on the waters of the Nile, may be seen, when stripped of all its circumstances, as due to the goodness of God. But if we consider the disinterestedness shown by God in this preservation, which to Him was not necessary, and which the infant himself had done nothing to merit-we see it as the work of God’s liberality. Again, when we reflect-that God had resolved, through Moses, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, we may look upon this preservation as an act of God’s justice. The watchful care over the child thus left exposed to so many dangers by the river, we attribute to the providence of God. And, finally, the rescue of the child from suffering, abandonment and want; the showering on him of gifts-good conditions for life, growth, upbringing, education-all this was the work of the Mercy of God.

And as, at every turn in the example just quoted, we are struck by the child’s helplessness and many needs, we may say that the goodness of God is Mercy, which creates and gives; the liberality of God-is Mercy, which pours out gifts in abundance, without looking to any merit; the providence of God-is Mercy, which watches over us; the justice of God-is Mercy, which rewards us above our deserts, and punishes us less than our sins merit; and lastly, that the love of God-is Mercy, which takes pity on human misery and draws us to Himself. In other words, the Mercy of God is the mainspring of God’s external activity: the source of each act of the Creator.

In every Book of the Old and New Testaments, the Mercy of God is mentioned repeatedly, but most often, and most eloquently, in the Book of Psalms. In the total number of 150 Psalms there are 55 Psalms especially praising this divine perfection, and in Psalm 135 each verse repeats as its refrain, "for his mercy endureth for ever".

In the Bible as a whole there are over four hundred passages in which the Mercy of God is given direct praise; in the Book of Psalms, there are a hundred and thirty; and in innumerable other texts His Mercy is hymned indirectly. The Psalmist, in speaking
of God’s Mercy, is not content with the word " merciful ", but adds a whole row of synonyms, as though anxious to strengthen our conviction of the boundless Mercy
of God.

(...) Can anyone fail to be struck by the number of times the Bible speaks of God’s Mercy? Does one not wonder why the inspired writer should do so? We see here God’s desire to give men His Mercy, to awaken their trust. God wants to teach us something
of His inner life, His relation to created things, and especially to people. God desires
to be praised by us in His Mercy, that we may imitate Him in our acts. (Vol. I, p. 5-16 )

 

DEVOTION TO THE DIVINE MERCY

Our Lord’s love for us is both divine and human, for He possesses both a divine and
a human nature and will. Hence we may regard the Savior’s Most Sacred Heart as the symbol of His threefold love for us-divine love, spiritual human love and sensitive human love. Yet this Heart is not a formal image or sign of His love, but only its trace (...). For-as Pius XII says in his encyclical "Hauriets aquas" of May 15, 1956-no created image could represent the reality of this infinite, merciful love.

In the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then, we honor above all Our Lord’s human love for mankind, and also His divine love for us, which, being love for the wretched, is really Divine Mercy. So, in this devotion, it is only the faint outline of God’s Mercy that we honor, for we see it there only, as it were, in bud (...). In the devotion to the Divine Mercy, a more appropriate material object is the blood and water which flowed from the Savior’s side on the cross. These are a symbol of the Church, brought forth from the side of the dead Savior on the cross (...), This blood and water flow ceaselessly in the Church as graces cleansing the soul (in the sacraments of baptism and penance), and as graces giving life (in the Sacrament of the Altar). Their Author is the Holy Spirit, whom the Saviour gave to the Apostles
(...) The true object of this devotion-its motive - is the infinite Mercy of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit towards fallen man. This is indeed the love of God for mankind, but only in a wider sense, for it is not the love which delights in perfections, but a compassionate love aroused by the misery in which man found himself after his sin.

(...) We see from the foregoing that devotion to the Divine Mercy is the logical consequence of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where it existed only in embryo. It now makes its appearance separately and is not identified with the other devotion, for its material and formal object is not the same. Its aim, too, is completely different. It is related to all Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, and not-as in the case of devotion to the Sacred Heart-to the Second Person alone; it is, moreover, better suited to the spiritual condition of present-day man, who stands in such need of trust in God. "Jesus, I trust Thee!", and, through Thee, I trust the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Vol. II, p. 204-205)

Devotion to the Mercy of God - that mercy which He gives us in the Sacrament
of Penance-is one of those devotions which befit all souls alike. For the aim of this devotion is to praise the Most Merciful Saviour, not in any one particular state or mystery, but in His universal Mercy, in which all mysteries are revealed at their most profound. And although this is obviously a separate devotion, it contains something which is of general application. This is expressed in the ejaculatory prayer: "Jesus, I trust in Thee", sinfulness, and, at the same time, arouses the virtue of trust - that virtue on which our justification is founded. (Vol. II, p. 263)

TRUST

The decisive factor in obtaining God’s Mercy is trust.
Trust is the expectation of someone’s help. It does not constitute a separate virtue, but is an essential condition of the virtue of hope, and an integral part of the virtues of fortitude and generosity. Because trust springs from faith, it strengthens hope and love, and is, moreover, linked up, in one way or another, with the moral virtues. It may, therefore, be called the basis on which the theological virtues unite with the moral. The moral virtues, originally natural, become supernatural if we practice them with trust in God’s help.

Natural trust-the expectation of human help-is a great incentive in men’s lives. We have only to remember the sieges of Zbaraz, Chocim and other fortified places, in lyth-century Poland, in the wars against the Cossacks and Turks, when the besieged held out heroically against the most shattering attacks of the enemy, and endured every kind of privation, because they were expecting reinforcements and liberation. But to expect help from men often leads to disappointment. Those who trust God, on the other hand, are never disappointed. "Mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord" (Ps. 31 : 10),

(...) Finally, in His speech of farewell, delivered in the Cenacle after the Last Supper,
Our Lord, having given His last orders to the Apostles, and foretold the afflictions
that they would have to endure in this world, for His name’s sake, spoke of trust
as the essential condition of perseverance, and of obtaining the help of God’s Mercy:
"In the world you will have afflictions. But take courage, I have overcome the world" (John 16 : 33).
This was the last utterance of the Saviour before the Passion,
and was noted down by the beloved Apostle, who wanted to remind all the faithful, throughout the ages, how necessary is the trust which the Saviour not only commended, but commanded.

Why does God so strongly urge us to trust? Because trust is homage to the Divine Mercy. Anyone who expects God to help him is thereby acknowledging that God is almighty and good, that He can help us, and wants to do so, and that He is, above all else, merciful (...) "No one is good but only God" (Mark 10:18).
We must know God in truth, for a false knowledge of Him chills our relationship with Him and obstructs the graces of His Mercy.

(...) Our spiritual life depends chiefly on the concept that we ourselves form of God.
Between God and ourselves, there are certain fundamental relations which are inherent in our nature as creatures, but there are other relations which spring from our own attitude to God; and this attitude depends on our idea of Him. If we form false concepts of the Lord Most High, our relationship with Him will be wrong, and all our efforts to set it right will be in vain. If we have a distorted idea of Him, there are bound to be many gaps and imperfections in our spiritual life. If, on the other hand, our concept of Him is-as far as is humanly possible-true, our souls will, quite certainly, grow in holiness and light.

The concept of God is, then, the key to holiness, for it governs our conduct in relation to God, and God’s attitude to us. God has adopted us as His children, but, unfortunately, we do not, in practice, behave like children. The son-ship of God is just a phrase, and in our actions we fail to show childlike trust in so good a Father.
(...) For lack of trust prevents God from lavishing His blessings on us; it is like a dark cloud impeding the action of the sun’s rays, or a dam cutting off one’s access to spring water.

(...) Nothing gives such glory to Divine omnipotence as the fact that God makes those who trust Him omnipotent also. Yet, if our trust is never to be disappointed, it must have those characteristics of which the King of Mercy Himself spoke.
(...) In relation to God, our trust should be supernatural, complete, pure, strong and enduring. Above all, our trust should spring from grace, and be founded on God.

(...) Relying on God, we must not rely too much on ourselves, on our own talents, prudence or strength; if we do, God will withhold His help, and leave us to find out our inadequacy from bitter experience. In the things of God, we must learn to distrust ourselves and be persuaded that, of ourselves, we can only harm, or even wreck,
God’s plans.

(...) When we trust in God, we do not rely on human means alone, for in this world nothing-not even the greatest strength and riches-will avail unless God Himself supports, strengthens, comforts, teaches and protects us. We must, indeed, take any measures that we regard as necessary, but we cannot rely only on these; we must put our whole trust in God. This trust should be the golden mean between what is known as Quietism, and over-activity. The advocates of this excessive activity are in a continual state of turmoil, for, in all they do, they rely solely on themselves. Trust in God causes us to do our work conscientiously, down to the smallest detail, but it saves us from the unrest of those who never allow themselves a breathing-space. It would, on the other hand, be sheer laziness to leave everything to God, without trying to do our duty as well as we could.

Trust in God should be strong and enduring, without doubts or hesitations. Such was the trust of Abraham, who was ready to offer up his son in sacrifice. And such was the trust of the martyrs. On the other hand, the Apostles, during the storm, were found wanting in this virtue, and Our Lord reproached them with the words: "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matt. 8 : 26).

If we have great trust, we must beware alike of pusillanimity and presumption. Pusillanimity is the basis of all temptations, for if we once give way to it, we lose the courage we need to persevere in the good, and fall headlong into sin. Presumption,
on the other hand, leads us into danger (for instance, the occasions of sin), with the hope, at the back of our minds, that God will come to the rescue. This is tempting God, and such tempting usually ends tragically for the tempter.

In our case, trust should go hand in hand with fear, the fear that comes from knowing our own misery. Without this fear trust turns to self-importance and fear without trust - meanness. Fear with trust becomes humble and brave, and trust with fear becomes strong and modest. For the sailing boat will sail, wind and the load which will dip it in the water, are necessary, that it will not capsize. So that is with us, we need the wind of trust and the load of fear. "the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him: and in them that hope in his mercy" (Ps. 146 : 11).

Finally, trust should be accompanied by longing-the desire to see God’s promises fulfilled, and to be united with our beloved Savior. (...) The longing for God must be in conformity with His will, it should be humble, not only as regards feeling, but as regards the will, which should urge us on to unceasing labour and total surrender to God. For trustful longing, if it is not to be mere delusion, must be based on sincere penance for our sins. "Mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord"
(Ps. 31 : 10).

When, in a raging storm, a ship loses its mast, lines and helm, and the foaming waves drive it on to the rocks, where it is in danger of being wrecked, the frightened sailors turn to their last resource-they let down the anchor, to hold the ship fast and prevent it from being dashed to pieces. This anchor, to us, is trust in God’s help.

(...) "Blessed be the man that trusteth in the Lord, and the Lord shall be his confidence. And he shall be as a tree that is planted by the waters, that spreadeth out its roots towards moisture: and it shall not fear when the heat cometh. And the leaf thereof shall be green, and in the time of drought it shall not be solicitous, neither shall it cease at any time to bring forth fruit" (Jer. 17 : 7-8).

Such are the fruits of trust, given by the Holy Spirit. Trust is, above all, homage to God’s Mercy, which, in exchange, bestows on those who trust the strength and courage they need to overcome even the most formidable difficulties.
(...) Trust in God drives away all sadness and depression, and fills the soul with great joy, even when circumstances are at their worst.
(...) Trust makes the miracles because it has the God’s almightiness to its services.
(...) Trust gives us inner peace, such as the world cannot give. Trust opens the way
to all the virtues.

According to a legend, they once resolved to leave this earth, stained as it is by so many sins, and return to their heavenly country. When they came to the gates of heaven, the doorkeeper admitted them all, with the exception of trust: trust was excluded, that the wretched people on earth, surrounded as they were by temptation and suffering, might not fall into despair. The legend tells us that trust had to return to earth, and all the other virtues returned with it.

Above all, trust comforts the dying, who, in their last moments, remember all the sins
of their lives, and are sometimes driven to despair. Appropriate acts of trust should, then, be suggested to the dying, for it is not everyone who, at such a time, can make them for himself. The dying should be reminded of their true home, now no longer distant, where the King of Mercy joyfully awaits all who trust in His Mercy. Trust assures us of a reward after death, as we know from many examples in the lives of the Saints. We need only think of Dismas, the thief dying on the cross beside Our Lord, to whom, in his last moments, he turned with trust, to hear the blessed assurance:
"This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23 : 43).

(...) "Cursed be the man that trustetb in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like tamarif in the desert, and he shall not see when good shall come; but he shall dwell in dryness in the desert in a salt land, and not inhabited" (Jer. 17 : 5-6). This is a picture of the contemporary world, which trusts so entirely in itself, in its own wisdom and strength, and in the inventions which, instead of bringing it happiness, fill it with fears of self-destruction. Inventions are undoubtedly a good thing, and in accordance with the will of God, who said:
"Fill the earth, and subdue it" (Gen. 1 : 28)
, but we must not trust wholly to our own reason, forgetting the Creator, and the honour and trust that are His due.

(...) Man’s distrust of God is the result of a foolish and baseless misunderstanding.
It comes from transferring our own faults and weaknesses to Him, and attributing to Him what we see in ourselves. We imagine God to be as changeable and capricious as we are-as stern and gloomy as we are-and so on. Such faults and behavior are an insult to God, and do us great harm. Where should we be now, if He who guides our destinies were as capricious, as vengeful, as quick to take offense, as we sometimes imagine? Our mistaken concept of God, and our tendency to impute our own shortcomings to Him, are due to our weakness and sadness, our ceaseless fears and our inner anxiety-human failings which exist almost everywhere.

Trust, then, may be compared with a chain hanging from heaven, and to which we attach our souls. God’s hand draws the chain upward; as it ascends, it carries with it all who hang on tightly. (...) Let us, then, cling to this chain in time of prayer, like the blind man of Jericho, who, sitting by the roadside, cried out with a loud voice:
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Let us trust God in all our needs, temporal and eternal-in all our sufferings, dangers and derelictions. Let us trust Him, even when it seems as though He Himself has abandoned us; when He withholds His consolations, leaves our prayers unanswered, crushes us beneath a heavy cross. It is then that we should trust God most, for this is the time of trial, the testing time, through which every soul must pass.

Holy Spirit, give me the grace of unwavering trust when I think of Our Lord’s merits,
and of fearful trust when I think of my own weakness.
When poverty comes knocking at my door:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When sickness lays me low, or injury cripples me:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When the world pushes me aside, and pursues me with its hatred:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When I am besmirched by calumny, and pierced through by bitterness:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When my friends abandon me, and wound me by word and deed:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE

Spirit of love and Mercy, be to me a refuge, a sweet consolation, a blessed hope,
that in all the most trying circumstances of my life I may never cease to trust Thee"
(Vol. III, p.189-200).



VIRTUE OF MERCY
DUTY TO CARRY OUT MERCIFUL DEEDS

Virtue of mercy is a brotherly bondage of people, the vigilant mother, who brings relieve, saves everyone who suffers. It is an image of God's Providence because it has an open eye for everyone's needs, but first of all is an Image of Merciful God, as Our Lord said: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6,36).

We should understand, that this virtue is not only advisable, but it is a duty of every Christian. A lot of people share a mistaken view that carrying out merciful deeds is only an act of grace and sacrifice which depends on one's will and good heart. However, the truth is totally different. The virtue of mercy is not an advice, which one can apply or give up without a sin, but it is our lawful duty. There is none who can be justified for not carrying out merciful deeds.

This conclusion comes from Holy Bible, from voice of our intellect and our brotherhood. The virtue of mercy has already taken place in Old Testament. In Moses' books we can read: "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." (Dt 15,11).
(...) Even to a greater degree Our Saviour puts the duty of mercy upon us. Depicting the Judgement Day, He put the following words in the mouth of the King: "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mt 25,41).

(...) The lack of merciful deeds towards our neighbours can be the only reason for being rejected by Our Lord. "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me" (Mt 25, 42 - 45).
Following His Words there is no need to prove that the virtue of mercy is our main duty because Our just Heavenly Father cannot punish us for what is not our duty.

(...) Numerous verses of Holy Bible tell us about the "earthly" reward for our merciful deeds towards our neighbours. "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done" (Pro 19,17).
(...) Even greater rewards for merciful people promises Jesus Christ: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you"
(Lk 6,38).

(...) Reward for the merciful deeds does not end up on earthly things. The spiritual prize is hundred fold more precious. This reward, in all is confined to the one word: Forgiveness and God's grace. It is the greatest goodness, the most precious treasure, and the most dear pearl which one can find easily by practising the virtue of Mercy. If one has happened to weaken his faith, let him be merciful and undoubtedly he will find the lost heavenly light. If one has not known yet Our Lord's Mercifulness, therefore is not able to follow him, let him begin with practising virtue of mercy towards one's neighbours and for sure Our Lord's words will come true: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Mt 5,7).

(...) Virtue of Mercy brings upon us God's Grace and Light, washes away our sins leading towards the Sacrament of Reconciliation, saves our soul from eternal death, as it is stated in Holy Bible: "Alms are a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who give them" (Tb 4,11).

(...) In order to receive heavenly reward for merciful deeds one has to meet some conditions: intentions behind the deeds should be pure; the deeds should be carried out continuously, joyfully and should not depend on personal preferences.

(...) It is a great privilege for us to follow God's steps in carrying out His Merciful deeds
by leading out our brothers and sisters from poverty or healing their bodies and souls.
(...) What a joy it is for us, that Our Lord allows us, in such an easy way to pay for our sins and deserve our eternal reward.

Dr. Fr. Michael Sopocko

 

 

 

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